Biologos: People To Ponder

#1

Biologos continues to advocate for inserting religion into public school science classes. This is more subtle than what ID tried to do in Dover but nonetheless illegal and unconstitutional. Biologos should refrain from advocating illegal and unconstitutional insertion of religion into public schools by teachers and administrators. It is sending the wrong message to teachers that it is okay to do this. It is illegal and unconstitutional and school districts can be sued and public school teachers can face disciplinary action for doing it.

Anna Van Dordrecht is the Curriculum Coordinator for Science at the Sonoma County Office of Education. I am requesting that Ms. Dordrecht publishes a clarification that she doesn’t advocate the insertion of religion into the curriculum of science in Sonoma County. If a clarification is not made immediately, I will ask FFRF to file a complaint letter to the Sonoma County Office of Education.

FFRF warns against proselytizing teachers.

Evolution, Biologos, and the Classroom
#2

@Patrick, I agree with and appreciate the effort to separate religion from teaching in the classroom. However, I read the first article, and I don’t see anything about religion being taught in a public school classroom. The “People to Ponder” refers to a teaching strategy about how to focus on case reports, such as a man who was struck by lightning. She then separates that from her church teaching. I agree that it can be confusing.

It’s not related to the 2nd article, from what I can see. Can you clarify? In my opinion, separation actually preserves faith, not harms it. Thanks.

#3

Look at Francis Collins bio that was to be given to students.

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#4

I’m on a work computer, so it won’t let me take a hyperlink. I’ll have to use another one.
I agree that one has to be very careful in discussing what makes heroes do what they do. If one were to discuss faith as a driving force for Martin Luther King or Francis Collins, for example, Malcolm X, Dawkins, or the Dalai Lama should get the same profile. I’ll look that up. Thanks.

#5

Religion is not allowed in Science class! Anna Van Dordrecht is the Curriculum Coordinator for Science at the Sonoma County Office of Education, she should know better than to be advocating the insertion of religion into science classes.

#6

I’m going to have to read that link. If it’s to support religion, or a particular point of view in that respect, I’d agree with you.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #7

@patrick this is too important a conversation to reduce to sound bites. I enterily agree with your values here but the devil is in the details.

I reccomend continuing to post articles on this topic but also:

  1. Specifying clearly where you think the violation happens.

  2. Explain why it’s a violation.

  3. perhaps even giving a hypothetical example for an atheist breaking the same rule, in a way you would oppose.

If you do that people will understand much better and real progress to a common outlook could arise.

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#8

Anna Van Dordrecht is the Curriculum Coordinator for Science in Sonoma County. She is a government offical in charge of curriculum for science in public schools for a county. She is writing in a Creationists website advocating the insertion of religion into public school science classes. Take a look at the Francis Collins bio that she feels would be okay to give to public school children.

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(S. Joshua Swamidass) #9

@Patrick if that bio was one among many bios, that also included people like Jerry Coyne and his atheism, it seems possible it could meet a neutrality test. What do the FFRF lawyers say?

#10

Francis Collins was chosen because he was a Christian. As you know, government officials must remain neutral on faith issues. She is a government official in charge of science curriculum for Sonoma County. She is publishing on a Creationism website a very subtle but nonetheless illegal and unconstitutional insertion of creationism into science classrooms by teachers.

I have put the complaint into the hands of the FFRF lawyers. This is going to get ugly for Ms. Van Dordrecht who really should have known better.

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(S. Joshua Swamidass) #11

He was chosen for this article because of BioLogos.

In the class he was chosen because of his work on the Genome project. We can’t tell for sure what happened in her class without seeing the other bios. Maybe there was a problem. If there was, I’m sure the FFRF lawyers will find out. Let’s withhold final judgement till we find out.

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#12

You are missing something very fundamental here. Government officials shouldn’t be posting on Creationism websites. Did she get her article approved for release by the Sonoma County Department of Education?

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#13

Francis Collins

Born in Virginia in 1950

Father raised cows and sheep and taught drama at a women’s college; mother was a playwright

Collins was homeschooled on the family’s farm until 6th grade

All through school Collins was interested in chemistry but had no use for “messy” biology

He graduated high school at 16 and majored in chemistry in college and then went to graduate school at Yale to study physical science

While at Yale he took a biochemistry course- this sparked an interest in DNA and RNA

Collins saw a revolution was going to happen in genetics, and he changed fields and entered medical school- he went on to get his MD 3 years later and begin residency


Collins considered himself an atheist, but working with dying patients led him to investigate religious views- he eventually became a Christian and struggled with that fit into a science career

After residency Collins returned to Yale and developed “positional cloning”- crossing long DNA stretches to identify disease genes- he successfully found the cystic fibrosis and Huntington’s genes and earned a reputation as the “gene hunter”

In 1993 Collins was invited to succeed James Watson as director of the National Center for Human Genome Research (Human Genome Project)- goal was to map the human genome before 2005

Collins kept the team ahead of schedule and in 2000 he joined Bill Clinton in announcing they had a working rough draft

In 2003 Collins announced the completion of the entire genome sequence


He is committed to free, rapid access to genomic information and made the data readily available

Collins is also a strong voice for ethical and legal issues in genetics- he’s advocated for protecting the privacy of genetic information and is the national leader for prohibiting gene-based insurance discrimination

In his 2006 book Collins published a book about the relationship between faith and science The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief ,

In 2007, Collins founded BioLogos to "contribute to the public voice that represents the harmony of science and faith". He served as the group’s first president


In 2008 Collins stepped down as director of Human Genome Project

In July 2009 President Obama nominated Collins as Director of the National Institute of Health (NIH)

There was concern about whether his religious views, which he is vocal about, would influence his leadership

In Aug. 2009 this was laid to rest when the US Senate unanimously confirmed him

He is currently responsible for 27 institutes and research centers and provides leadership for science research throughout the world

His many projects as director of NIH have included:

Enacting the Precision Medicine Initiative to improve individualized medical care

Supporting Alzheimer’s research

Reducing the use of chimpanzees in biomedical research

Appointing the NIH’s first Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity


November 2011, Collins was included on The New Republic’s list of Washington’s most powerful, least famous people

His hobbies outside of science include guitar playing (he formed a rock band with other scientists) and motorcycle riding

On June 6, 2017, President Donald Trump announced his selection of Collins to continue to serve as the NIH Director.

Collins has received numerous national and international awards and is considered “one of the most accomplished scientists of our time”

All items in bold are not allowed to be presented in a public school.

(Edward Robinson) #14

Why just Science class? Why should the restriction not apply to all classes, in publicly funded schools? This was the amusing inconsistency of Eugenie Scott’s stance that it would be OK to teach Intelligent Design in a Philosophy class, but unconstitutional in a science class. If her motivation was really constitutional principle, and if she really believed that ID was a religious teaching, then she would have opposed ID being taught anywhere in public schools, at any time. The fact that she was willing to allow ID in classes other than science indicates either that constitutionality wasn’t her basic motivation, or that her thinking was logically incoherent.

Also, note that if this understanding of constitutionality were strictly applied, one would not be able to teach Darwin’s Origin of Species in science class, since, by making a sustained attack on the doctrine of special creation, it takes sides on a religious matter, which school textbooks and schoolteachers aren’t allowed to do.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #15

You can’t extrpoate from @Patrick to Scott. She would not likely agree with @Patrick. Mentioning the personal beliefs of a scientist for historical background is not usually a violation in itself especially if thosenpersonal beliefs are Presented neutrally.

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#16

It is not just science class, religion can’t be taught in all public school classes at the elementary, junior high school, and high school levels to children. Why is the current Science Curriculum Coordinator of Sonoma County writing on a Creationism website (Biologos) outlining to public school teachers how to illegally and unconstitutionally insert God into the discussion of science in the public school classroom?

#17

[quote=“swamidass, post:15, topic:1369”]
You can’t extrpoate from @Patrick to Scott. She would not likely agree with @Patrick. Mentioning the personal beliefs of a scientist for historical background is not usually a violation in itself especially if thosenpersonal beliefs are Presented neutrally.
[/quote

Ms. Van Dordrecht, a Sonoma County Dept of Education employee, is proposing a subtle plan for Christian public school teachers to insert religion into a science class by inserting items like those in Francis Collins resume to show that he once was an atheist but now is a Christian who has done great things in science. Not going to fly. It is a blatant violation of the separation of Church and State as she is a government official (Science Curriculum Coordinator) making a proposal on a Christian Creationism website without the approval nor endorsement of the Sonoma County Department of Education.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #18

The government employee point is separate. She might be in trouble for that especially if she didn’t get approval to write the article.

#19

The government employee point is the WHOLE matter. It was the same reason the current director of the National Institute of Health couldn’t be advertised as the Keynote speaker at a Christ and Creationism Conference. It is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion by the government.

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(Edward Robinson) #20

I agree with you, Joshua, that merely mentioning a scientist’s religious beliefs is not in itself a constitutional violation. I agree also that Eugenie Scott would probably grant this. I agree also that Scott might not agree with Patrick on some things. But the point I made about Scott had nothing to do with whether or not she agreed with Patrick. I was making a separate point (stimulated by Patrick’s remark, but still a separate point) that Scott was being inconsistent with the “OK in Philosophy class, not OK in science class” divide. If ID is an inherently religious view (as Judge Jones ruled), then in strict legality it couldn’t be taught in any class at all.

You might respond that “teaching about ID” would be constitutional, but that “teaching that ID is true” would not be. So, saying “There is a biochemist with 36 peer-reviewed publications named Michael Behe who rejects Darwinian evolution” would be constitutional, but saying “Michael Behe rejects Darwinian evolution, and he’s right” would not be. But if that’s the distinction, then ID could be mentioned – as long as it was without endorsement by teacher or textbook – as an existing view, not just in philosophy but even in science class.

(Note that I am not arguing that ID should be mentioned in science class; I’m merely pointing out that if it’s OK constitutionally for a Philosophy teacher in a publicly-funded high school to mention ID, it should be OK constitutionally for the Science teacher as well.)